Wicomico Council Fills Vacancy

SALISBURY — Wicomico officials this week appointed local businessman John Hall to the seven-member County Council, filling a vacancy in District 4 created by the passing of Councilman Bob Caldwell in October after a long bout with cancer.

The six sitting members of the Wicomico County Council chose Hall, a life-long county resident who owns and operates Hall’s Tidewater Travel, on Tuesday after conducting extensive closed session interviews with each of the four candidates nominated by the county’s Republican Central Committee. The other nominees included Bill Carey, Robert Huntington and Catherine Heim.

The county charter states when a council vacancy occurs before the end of the term of office, the vacated menber’s Central Committee shall submit a list of four nominees to the County Council. Each of the nominees must be of the same political affiliation and reside in the same district as the council member whose seat has become vacant.

Wicomico County’s GOP Central Committee nominated six candidates for consideration at first, then winnowed the list to four. During a closed session on Tuesday, the Wicomico Council interviewed each of the nominated candidates before choosing Hall to fill the void left by Caldwell’s passing.

Caldwell was elected to the Wicomico County Council in 2010 to represent District 4, which encompasses much of Salisbury and its suburbs. After being appointed on Tuesday, Hall will serve out the remainder of Caldwell’s term, which expires in 2014.

With the appointment of Hall, the council is whole again with seven members, including five district representatives and two at-large members. Hall’s appointment does not change the make-up of the elected body, which includes six Republicans and one Democrat, and four male members and three female members.

Before the interview process began on Tuesday, Councilmember Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-1) questioned the selection process.

“I called for the interview process to be held in open session,” she said. “This is 2011 and there has never been a greater call for transparency in government. This was an opportunity to do that.”

However, Council President Gail Bartkovich said the closed session interview process was best for the nominees. “If I were a candidate, I’d want the interview process conducted in closed session,” she said.

Hall will likely be sworn in during the council’s Dec. 6 session, at which time new council officers will be elected. Bartkovich said on Tuesday she would not seek the council’s presidency again.